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Ancient Thai city grapples with surging monkey population

October 13, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

This picture taken on June 20, 2020 shows a longtail macaque baring its teeth in the town of Lopburi, some 155km north of Bangkok. - Lopburi's monkey population, which is the town's main tourist attraction, doubled to 6,000 in the last three years, forcing authorities to start a sterilisation campaign. (Photo by Mladen ANTONOV / AFP) (Photo by MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP via Getty Images)

Over 4,500 crab-eating macaques roam the streets of the ancient city of Lopburi. Though popular with tourists, the monkey population has grown too quickly, causing headaches for city residents.

Some 4,500 crab-eating macaques that roam this ancient capital's streets, many of which occupy the crumbling Khmer-style Phra Prang Sam Yod -- aka Monkey Temple -- in the city center.

Though the monkeys have always been a part of local life, putting the city on the global tourism map, steady population growth has made their presence increasingly challenging.

With Thailand currently closed to international tourists, the monkeys in the main tourist center -- once accustomed to daily feasts -- now must make do with what the locals and domestic weekend travelers feed them.

"The monkeys have begun to wait at garbage bins at shops and department stores where humans dump all those tasty foods and snacks," says Manus.

"I have tried to educate tourists and locals about the importance of not feeding monkeys food that's high in carbohydrates and sugar -- this has contributed to the growth of the population in Lopburi significantly," says Narongporn.

But city monkeys are consuming food all the time and as a result they are able to give birth twice a year. "

"This year we sterilized 1,200 monkeys in Lopburi (916 of those were in the city), a new record.

Normally we would do around 400 monkeys a year," says Narongporn.

"Some wanted to move these monkeys out of Lopburi city totally, but the problems are where do you move them?

Officials have confirmed to CNN Travel the annual Monkey Buffet Festival will take place at Phra Prang Sam Yod on November 29, as the country has not reported a locally transmitted Covid-19 infection in several weeks.

As part of the festival, the city puts out a huge spread of food and drinks for the monkeys to feast on, an event that in normal years attracts both local and international tourists.

His family feeds them daily, and allows the smaller, weaker monkeys -- "They've been kicked out of their herds," he says -- to come into his shop during the day, some even hanging onto the shirts of staff's backs as they go about their work.

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